Written by Lou Lenzi, Director of Industrial Design for GE Appliances
Held annually at Messe Berlin, IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung) can best be described as the “European CES.” IFA covers everything from consumer electronics to major appliances, small appliances, mobile computing and smartphones as well as technology presentations from major European research labs. With over 1,600 exhibitors, and 245,000 attendees over six days, it is larger than CES. Unlike CES, it is a combined trade show and consumer show, making the product displays very open and accessible. There’s also a refreshing lack of “vaporware”- product concepts that will never see the light of day – when compared to CES.
A Designer’s Delight
Conventional wisdom says European consumers naturally place a higher value on good design when compared to the North American consumer. While that topic can be debated, what is clear is the focus placed on industrial design excellence – clean forms, precise details, and quality fit and finishes – across nearly all of the products on display.
Connectivity was everywhere
Every flavor of connectivity was present – home automation, energy management, food inventory management, remote appliance operation and alerts and notifications … to name a few. Cameras are now popping up inside of appliances, from refrigerators to ovens. Is this in case you want to check in on your leftover lasagna while at the office?
If the show is any indication, the European market continues it’s fascination with glass-over steel appliance fronts to create a highly reflective, almost mirror-like finish. This could be a functional detail – you can check your look in the door before deciding to go for that cheesecake in the fridge. Make sure you have plenty of glass cleaner for the fingerprints.
I would recommend this show to anyone interested in a comprehensive survey of modern product design. And while IFA attracts large crowds, it is a highly accessible venue, conveying a sense of purpose and optimism.